The Biden administration will waive 26 laws to build additional border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley. Notice It was posted in the Federal Register on Wednesday, citing “high illegal entry.”
The construction of the wall was to be paid for using already allocated funds, and the administration was under a deadline to use them. But the move comes at a time when a new surge of immigrants is straining federal and local resources and putting intense political pressure on the Biden administration to address the broader crisis.
The Border Patrol reported about 300,000 encounters in the Rio Grande Valley between October and August. Federal data. Last month, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 200,000 migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, the highest number this year.
President Joe Biden – who, as a candidate, He vowed He has been plagued by problems at the border since his first months in office, when the U.S. faced a surge in unaccompanied migrant children that flattened officials — and that there would not be “another foot” of a border wall built under his watch. Over the past two years, his administration has faced a fierce backlash from Republicans and, at times, Democrats.
But the new surge of immigrants has put additional pressure on federal resources and tested Biden’s latest border policies just months after they took effect, prompting fresh criticism from Republicans and concern within the administration about the politically sensitive issue.
Migration at the southern border has been a Republican presidential primary and a constant focus of conservative media, and leading Democrats, including the mayors of New York and Chicago, have begun publicly calling for stronger efforts by the federal government to provide resources to accommodate the influx.
The Department of Homeland Security had decided it was “necessary to waive certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements to ensure expeditious construction of barriers and roads” along the U.S. border with Mexico in Starr County, Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorgas said in a filing with the U.S. Federal Registry.
“There is now a serious and urgent need to build physical barriers and roads near the US border to prevent illegal entry into the United States in project areas,” Mayorkas said in the announcement.
A 2019 appropriations bill that specifically paid for a “border barrier” in the Rio Grande Valley would pay for construction of the wall, and according to Mayorkas, “DHS must use those funds for their intended purpose.” The funds must be spent by the end of fiscal year 2023, prompting the administration to choose to move forward with construction in South Texas this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans to design and build up to 20 miles of new border barrier systems in Starr County, including light poles and lights, gates, cameras and access roads. CBP solicited public input between August and September, according to the agency.
Among the laws the Biden administration is ignoring to build the wall are the same laws the administration has moved to protect in the past, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. .
A CBP spokeswoman said the agency is “committed to protecting the nation’s cultural and natural resources” while implementing “sound environmental practices” to build border barriers.
Migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border are expected to be very high, a senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official recently told CNN, though additional commitments from Mexico are expected to eventually help reduce the numbers.
This week, Mayorkas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House Homeland Security Adviser Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall will meet her Mexican counterparts in Mexico City for annual security talks.
Migration is expected to be a topic of discussion. Senior administration officials say the U.S. remains in constant contact with Mexico on the situation on the U.S. southern border, including commitments to improve enforcement.
This story has been updated with additional information.